Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Run for Kids Challenge – A Run of Love

This is the article I submitted to Ultrarunning Magazine.  Maybe they will use some of it.  The first of the article is about the same as the last post so if it sounds familiar, just skip that part.

In 2007 I rode in the Ride of Love, a fundraiser for Camp Smile-A-Mile, Alabama's camp for kids with cancer. The 150 mile ride ends at Children's Harbor (the location of Camp SAM) on Lake Martin, in central Alabama. Sixty riders rode as a group, escorted by two Tuscaloosa motorcycles Policemen. The ride took 12 very long hours. That is a long time to sit on a bicycle seat. The ride was tough, but nothing compared to arriving at the camp. Seeing all those kids in the midst of a battle for their lives, realizing the suffering they and their families have been through made us realize just how insignificant our inconsequential and momentary discomfort had been. I could not help but look around and know a few of theses kids would not be back next year. That was what hurt.

In 2011 I started the Run for Kids Challenge here in Birmingham, Alabama as a fundraiser for Camp SAM. The run was small but we raised about $4,000 for the camp. For 2012 we changed the date and location to Oak Mountain State Park and apparently everyone liked the change. We sold out the run with105 total runners and 71 in the 12 Hour and 50K. The 50-K runners circled this “long” (3.4 mile) course nine times, then ran a “short” 0.7 mile final loop. The 12 hour runners ran the same “long” loop and could use the short loop during the final hour.

We promoted our race as the perfect beginner ultra. The course is a on a beginner mountain bike trail with gently rolling hills and beautiful views of Double Oak Lake. The trails are very runnable, even in road shoes.  Most runners complete the long loop in less than an hour so runners are never very far from the aid station and their drop bags or coolers. Our aid station was very well stocked with a variety of bean, turkey breast and cheese & hummus roll-ups. (I read the article in the April issue of Ultrarunner) In addition, we had boiled eggs and the usual cookies, oranges, bananas, M&Ms, PBJ sandwiches, chips and so on.

At the start, the temperature was 65 deg. and mist had settled over the lake giving the park a surreal appearance. After the start, the fog burned off and, as the sky cleared, the temperature rose quickly, eventually reaching 88 by mid afternoon. Most of the run is shaded by trees with the only a couple of long exposed stretches, across the beach area and the 400 yard section across the dam. And, of course, the Alabama humidity was about average at 99.999%. At least that is what it felt like.

We had a great field of runners in both the 12 Hour and 50K races. In the 50K, the 2011 overall winner, Rebecca Massie of Robertsdale, Alabama returned to defend her title. Lisa Ievers from Auburn gave Rebecca a real run for the money. Rebecca stayed within seconds of Roy Wells, the overall race leader, for two laps before dropping back a little. Lisa was within one minute of Rebecca at the end of the first lap but slowly dropped back to about 10 minutes behind. By the end of the final 3.4 mile lap, Lisa had closed back up to within 4 minutes but Rebecca maintained her pace and held on to win by just over 4 minutes in 4:50:30. Lisa finished with a time of 4:54:40 for second. Tiffany Greene of Brandon, MS finished third.

On the men's side, Roy Wells of Brentwood, TN, national account manager for Swiftwick and former pitcher for the Seattle Mariner's, totally dominated the men's race start to finish. For a while it appeared Rebecca would stay with him but his pace was just too much. Roy finished in 4:43:20 for first place overall. Scott Weisberg finished second and 4th overall, with a time of 5:42:50. Matthew Farrar from Fort Rucker, Alabama came in third . Thirty three of the forty four starters finished the 50K.

The 12 Hour race had some pretty dramatic moments. John Brower of Jackson, Mississippi lead the first lap by about 3 1/2 minutes over Wayne Phillips of Jacksonville, Alabama and Josh Merry from Dawsonville, Georgia. John held the lead until mile 24 when Wayne took over and Josh pulled into second. At the end of lap 11 (37.4 miles) Wayne had what appeared to be a commanding 21 minute lead. On lap 12 Josh began to close, cutting Wayne's lead to 11 minutes. Wayne held on to the lead until lap 16 (54.2 miles) where he decided he had had enough and stopped. Josh continued for two laps on the “short loop” for a total of 55.76 miles to take the win. Wayne finished second and Isaac Espy of Norhtport, Alabama ran a steady race all day and finished 50.81 miles to take third.

The women's race was really close. Seven competitors were within striking distance of the lead in the early laps. By lap four Mary Valdez of Crestview, Florida had pulled well ahead of the rest of the field. By lap 6, Kellie Smirnoff of Jacksonville Beach Florida had taken over the lead and by lap 10 (34 miles) had Kelly had pulled ahead of the second place woman, Molly Freeman of Atlanta by 21 minutes. As the runners came through to finish lap14, Molly had taken over the lead and the next 4 women were within 15 minutes of each other and three of the four only 3 minutes apart.

Molly stopped at that point at 47.42 miles, leaving Kelly, Mary, Helen Summerford of Ridgeland Mississippi and Beverly Brower (wife of John Brower, early leader of the men's 12 hour) to fight it out for the top four places. Kelly completed one more long lap for a total of 50.81 miles and still in the lead but decided to stop. Helen, Beverly and Mary shifted to the short loop and continued battling for the the top spot. After three short laps all three women were within three minutes of each other. Mary Valdez stopped after the third short lap at 53.1 miles total. Helen and Beverly took off for one more lap. When they came within sight of the finish on the fourth loop both women were running almost side by side. The finish line was the scoring table (actually a trash can next to the table) and Helen edged out Beverly by three feet. Both women had covered 53.85 miles, but it was not over yet. Beverly, not wanting to give up, took off on another lap with just 6 minutes, 58 seconds to go. She had run the previous lap in 6 minutes so it was going to be close. As the clock ticked down to 12 hours Beverly was not yet in sight and missed the cutoff by just 90 seconds. A pretty amazing finish after 12 hours of running.

David Tosch
RD Run for Kids Challenge

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